Interview: Lee Mayer, Founder + CEO Havenly

I had the good fortune of meeting Lee and acting as a mentor for Havenly through MergeLane, a Startup accelerator program for women-led companies. The way Lee is leading Havenly to success is impressive. She is an extremely driven woman who is highly intelligent, yet humble. The Heavenly concept is brilliant and I've personally already used it for three rooms! Happy to share her interview below.  

CD: Where did your inspiration to start Havenly come from?

LM: Personal need! I remember trying to decorate my brand new house, I was so excited to have a beautiful, adult place - but it was nearly impossible for me. I didn't know where to start, who the best vendors were, what pillows went with which rug - and interior designers were out of reach for me, either because of cost, or because I didn't feel like they got my style.   

CD: How did you decide whether to bootstrap the business, seek angel investors, or take VC money?

LM: It’s a great question, I always believed (as so many entrepreneurs do :) that this could be a big business, and one in which moving quickly was paramount. In order to do that, given our cash flow profile, we knew we'd have to take outside capital - so we did. And as we grew bigger, we realized the most efficient way to bring on outside capital was to go to an institutional (or VC) investor.   

CD: Can you walk us through a typical day for you? What is the best part of your day?

LM: My days are almost always atypical. I usually wake up around 6:30 or 7, and scroll through, and answer any emails that came in the evening or night before. I look at the company's statistics and performance from the day before, and ask any questions on what happened. I like to read various news sources in the morning, it just gives me time to think about what is going on in the world, and other companies - and often come up with ideas that prompt discussions.

I show up to work later than my team, mostly because that's the best part of my day. Our team is so amazing, and walking in, and seeing all of them working hard is such a fulfilling moment for me - and it reminds me why I do what I do. Generally, my day is taken up by a lot of meetings, whether it's around marketing or operations. I tend to work late, so after most people leave the office, I catch up on actual work. I've found there's almost always an event in the evening that I can attend, but some days, I go home, cook dinner and catch up with my husband.

CD: What did you learn from your biggest failure? What would you have done differently?

LM: I learned that I'm not great at confrontation - I hate the thought of firing someone, and having a tough conversation, sometimes with someone I like a lot, around whether or not they're performing. The irony is, by putting it off, I actually made the situation worse - so I try really hard to force myself out of my hesitancy, and make sure I have tougher conversations early - and honestly. 

CD: What was the best piece of advice you ever got? The worst?

LM: The best piece of advice: Build the best team you can, and they'll make you look good. The worst: You can't build a big business outside of San Francisco (or at least I hope it's the worst!)

CD: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

LM: Laugh a lot along the way, this job can be a roller coaster of emotions, but if you can find time to laugh at yourself and at some of the ridiculous things that happen while you're building your company - you'll get through anything. 

CD: How do you stay healthy (physically and mentally) while building a business?

LM: Mentally is easier, I tend to try and not dwell on the scary stuff - I remind myself I do the best I can, and tomorrow is another day to do things better.  Also, reading helps.  

Keeping physically fit is HARD! I finally succumbed and got myself a personal trainer, as I realized that having someone hold me accountable to actually find the time to work out is worth it.  

CD: What’s your favorite book?

LM:  I have too many :) I'm re-reading East of Eden right now, because I was just talking about it with a friend, and realized I hadn't read it in a while. It's definitely on the favorites list.

CD: Who would you most like to have dinner with?

LM:  Good question! My grandmother, who passed away when I was 16. Or maybe Michelle Obama, she's a total badass, but lives with such grace.

CD: What’s your favorite vacation spot?

LM: My husband and I took our honeymoon in Kenya - and it was amazing.  A little too far to do regularly, but I highly recommend it.  We also have a house up in Steamboat Springs, which is a lovely mountain getaway for us.

Interview:  Lee Mayer, CEO Havenly- LIFE SMART by Carrie Dorr